Delicious Russia: Homemade Jam with blackberries and sea buckthorns

The stronger the smell of autumn gets, the more jars of varenye, or fruit preserves, you'll find among Russian housewives' homemade preserves.

Varenye is an old Russian word that means "a boiled treat". In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the word "varenye" started to be replaced by the word kandirovanie, or "hard candy". However, in international culinary lingo, "varenye" refers exclusively to ethnic Russian forms of fruit preserves.

Many people confuse varenye, jam, marmalade, and the Polish plum stew, powidl. Russian varenye is substantively different from the treat that the English or Austrians, for instance, have for breakfast, along with tea, butter and toast. Europeans prefer fruit jams or even soft fruit marmalades. Varenye’s main difference is that the fruit remains whole after being boiled instead of becoming soft and losing their shape. Fruit in varenye shouldn’t fall apart, as opposed to powidl in which the fruit is initially grated until it reaches a uniform consistency.

Varenye is a relatively seasonal product. It’s in least demand during the warm part of the year, when people opt for fresh berries and fruit and drink less tea. Demand is at its highest in the fall and winter. People usually give a jar of varenye to a sick person because it contains many vitamins that remain despite being boiled. Sea buckthorn, for example, has a lot of vitamin C, while blackberries contain a high amount of vitamin K.

Varenye is especially popular among people with dachas because they have direct access to the main ingredients: berries. Both blackberries and sea buckthorn are widespread in Russia’s median strip. We’ll make our preserves out of sea buckthorn, plums, tangerines, and blackberries.

How do we make it:

blackberries - 1 kg

tangerines - 1 kg

sea buckthorn - 1 kg

plums - 1 kg

lemon - 1 pc

sugar - 4 kg

1) Let’s get the fruit ready. First we wash and peel mandarins. For every 1 kilogram of blackberries, we’ll need 1 kilogram of mandarins that we’ve already washed. Be sure to take out any bad berries, stems, or leaves. As a result, we’ll only have good, whole berries.

2) Sea buckthorn is pretty sour which is why we’ll add plums, cutting them in half and taking out their pits. Now we’ll add some lemon zest. In general, people tend to add 1 kg of sugar for every kilogram of fruit.

3) Pour in some sugar and let it stand for a few hours to let the juice absorb the sugar.

4) We’ll now make a syrup by mixing one liter of water with 2 kilograms of sugar and adding it to the varenye. Bring this to a boil so that the sugar dissolves.

5) Pour in the syrup and let it sit on the burner for a few hours. As this concoction boils, you’ll need to mix it and remove the foam that forms at the top.

6) Before we prepare for the last step of preservation, we fill the jars to the top with boiling water to clean them. After tossing out the water, pour in the varenye all the way to the top so that there’s as little air as possible inside. This will help it stay fresh for a long time. If there's any gap or opening, the jar could burst or the varenye could spoil sooner than it should.

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